Hurricane Farm

  (Scotland, Connecticut)
A view of life on our farm
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Work Begins On Our Newest Pasture

We've finally started work on our newest pasture.  This particular pasture is about 2/3 of a mile down the road...not far at all.  We've finally "tamed" the pasture that we acquired laste year--meaning all of the invasive trees have been cut back and we're starting to get the grasses to fill in.  This first pasture had not been tended to in years and needed alot of work.

Our newest pasture, however, is in GREAT shape and is ready for the cattle as soon as the cattle are ready to range (and once the fencing is finished).

The landowner of the new field has allowed us use of his 29 HP New Holland tractor complete with brush-hog and post-hole digger attachments.  First we mowed down some of the field to make space to work.  Then we attached the post-hole digger, drilled some holes, and set the corner posts.  The next job was to mark out the location for the rest of the posts on each side.  Some rebar and surveying tape worked nicely.

 

The attachment worked better than we imagined!  It took only a couple of minutes to line-up and then drill each hole.  We hit very few rocks, maybe 4 all day.  Great soil!

We were able to get down about 4 feet for each hole!  Now I can do this with a shovel, but not THAT fast!  Check out all the "Danger" labels on this thing! 

Corner post one.  Barely had to use that shovel off to the left.  A little "tamping" with the 2 x 4 and it's all set.

 

Being used to a 1963 Farmall Cub, this "new" tractor was a completely different machine.  I think that I could turn a complete circle atop a postage stamp with this thing!  Amazing control, both forward and back as well as steering.

Drop the three-point hitch, bring up the throttle, and then a touch of down pressure...

Still lots more to do, but we're off to a good start.  It's been a full few weeks, with field clearing, harvesting chickens, and building chicken coops for customers, but we're on our way to some new farm land!

 

 

 

 
 

Hurricane Farm in the Blog-o-Sphere: "It's Hip!"

Though neither "Up-To-the-Minute" nor "Late-Breaking," (sorry, we just found this article from last Winter) this blog commentary offers an interesting perspective on local, sustainable farming. 

http://nutmegnewssource.blogspot.com/2009/12/farming-is-hip-but-challenging.html

 
 

Hurricane Farm at Scotland Farm Day, 2010

We brought some of our livestock to the annual Farm Day here in Scotland, CT this past weekend.  The photos below are from the Norwich Bulletin.

Here's two week old Moe sleeping after a morning's full of attention.

 

The piglets were also hard at work ripping up the grass looking for grubs, roots, and other yummy things.  But so much hard work made for some sleeply little piglets for sure!

We had a great time and met some wonderful new customers and friends.  It was also nice to see some of our CSA members and regular customers who came out as well.

 

 
 

The Further Emergence of Spring

Spring continues its forward progession. 

New calves have been introduced to the growing "herd" out in the pastures...

A new lamb, named Vera, is introduced to some of the other sheep in the flock...

A little girl holds one of her favorite hens...

A flower pops its head through the freshly tilled and fertilzed soil...

Fiddleheads pop up alongside the brook and stream...

Spring is here and in full force at Hurricane Farm!

 
 

End of the Season Cattle Wrangling

It is come upon the end of the season for our borrowed field down the road.  The cattle did a wonderful job clearing out the overgrown field and we have high hopes for superior hay next season.  I'll be brush-hogging the remaining saplings and whatever else may be left.

To that end, we spent an afternoon moving Fuzzy back up to the field behind our barn.

Liev decided that he would be responsible for the rope.  The trailer is a bit high off the ground, so we end up roping the cattle to help coax them aboard.  We use the rope as a sort of leash and aboard they climb.

Erica decided that she, too, would be a "wrangler."  We're lucky to have neighbors that allow us use of this 5+ acre field.  We plan to fence in a second pasture next Spring as well as put in a large pumpkin patch (right where the truck is parked just behind the cowgirl in the photo).

And here we are backing the trailer up in order to unload our passenger, Fuzzy.  It was hard to tell whether he was pleased to be back at the farm or if he missed his summer home. 

After the weekend, we loaded him back up again and Erica took the long trip to deliver him to be harvested.  I think it is great that our children, and the children who visit the farm, are aware of the sources of their foods.  What could be more natural than a connection to the very essence of life that sustains us all?

 

 
 

Moving Cattle -- A Photographic Essay

Here are many of the long-awaited photos of our multi-day adventure in cattle moving.

My Dad helped lend a hand to add higher sides to the trailer.  We used 2 x 6 dimensional lumber and affixed it all with lag screws and carriage (how appropriate) bolts.

A close-up of my Dad working hard.  He most notably suggested that we add the upside down milk crate to the list of indispensible farm tools. 

But, of course, hard work calls for some well-deserved food!

After just a short rest, Dad volunteered to cook us some dinner.  What a nice house guest!  Wood-fired is the only way to go.  Those burgers are made of ground turkey (our own), eggs (our own), carrots, peas (our own), and some other various veggies.

After a night of wonderful food, we were back at it in the morning.  We had the trailer all backed up and ready to be loaded.  We used a couple of pallets as a step for the cattle to get into the trailer.

Here's Fuzzy thinking about it.

And here's Fuzzy inside.  Notice the short gate on the trailer. 

A little grain goes a long way with these guys.

A job well done!  Erica has a certain knack for luring animals into trailers, pick-up beds, down long corridors in the barn, etc.  I think it has to do with unwavering patience.

Ahhh.  But notice now that Fuzzy is no longer in the trailer.  He determined that the lush, green grass outside the trailer was more desirable than the remnants of grain on the trailer floor.  He hopped right out the back while we were starting to tow him away.  So now you can see that we had to build a gate--a much more secure gate--for the trailer.

A few more carriage bolts, some hinges, and two latches later...

This was our third and luckily final attempt at moving Fuzzy.  The trailer was all set and ready to haul.  If we were trying to catch turkeys, we'd have been champs!

Here he goes!

Success, take two!  Nothing is getting out of that gate.  A perfect system, so it seems.

Violet was equally impressed that Fuzzy was so eager to get back into the trailer from which he had fled just hours before.

And there we go, off the farm, down the road, and to the pasture.  It sure is fun driving on the road with a tractor!  On the way back I had Erica follow me in the car and check my speed.  At top speed I was cruising along at 9 miles per hour!  It seemed like 75, though, in the open tractor pulling that trailer.

There we go off road and down into our new pasture.  Violet brought some grain ("Just in case," she said).  Liev lost his shirt somewhere along the line.

One final alteration is still to be made on the trailer...It appears that the cattle can get their pesky little big heads through the sides.  They can barely get them back out, you know, with the horns and all.  I will have to fill in those spaces with some strapping or siding.

One thing that we hadn't counted on was Fuzzy's temperment.  He is normally so nice and calm and friendly.  He was pretty mad at us for the trailer ride, though.  Once he got off he just stormed away into the pasture grasses.  Not even a farewell "moo."

We have a 100 gallon watering trough in the field and we fill it from time to time with water from this little brook that runs adjacent to the pasture.  5 gallon pails at work.

After we brought Alyosius down to join him, all was forgiven in Fuzzy's eyes.  His tail was happily swishing back and forth as he chowed down on the tasty greens.

A job well done by all.  "Great teamwork!"

 
 

Still Working On the Trailer

We're still working on the new trailer.  My parents came down yesterday and my Dad worked hard on constructing some new sides for it.

Here is Liev working hard at his job...

He single-handedly removed all the old lights and helped to tear out the wires.  There were enough wires on there to light two trailers, so we took them off and started from scratch with one set.

 
 

New Pasture, Take 2

To those checking back...

9:38 pm.  All cattle still in original location.  Some modifications have begun on the trailer and the onset of darkness has stopped me from finishing said modifications. 

We will in good faith attempt to move them again tomorrow.  Perhaps the help of my Dad will push us to success!

(We do have some good pics of our "attempts" to lure them into the trailer, but...alas...the camera is no where to be found.)

Moving to the New Pasture

We acquired a "new to us" trailer that will work out perfectly for hauling hogs and our cattle, as well as myriad other things (kids, pumpkins, hay, wood).

Our plan is to move two of the cattle to the new pasture this afternoon.  If all goes according to plan, there may be some interesting photos up here this evening.  I still have some work to do on the trailer--right now both wheels are off, as is the hitch, and I'm in the midst of re-wiring the whole thing.  It should be ready this afternoon, though.  Yesterday the kids and I went out to the farm store twice.  The first time we purchased some nice, shiny new wheels (tires and rims) for the trailer.  They measured (in theory, apparantly) to be the right size.  The bolts holes were 4 1/2 on center, etc, etc.  We got them home.  No luck.  One bolt hole was off by less than 1/16" of an inch on each wheel.  Either we have some funky sized hubs on the trailer, or they are selling seriously flawed rims at the farm store.  So, back we went.  Which was good because I needed to buy about 12 more things for the trailer anyways.

We ended up going to a local tire store and they popped on two "seasoned" tires onto the original rims, which still have plenty of life left in them, for $80 including the labor and balancing.  Not a bad deal.  I'm planning to take the red truck up there soon now that I know they do that sort of thing.

Here are some photos of the new pasture being prepped for the cattle.  I'll be putting up a gate this morning, finishing the trailer, and then working on loading the trailer with one of the cattle.  We'll see how that goes...

The grasses (and weeds) are really tall!  The cattle will start working on that this afternoon, hopefully.

Violet will have one last chance to pick wild flowers before the cattle get to them.

The tools needed to string up field fence.  (Anyone look up "rod" yet?)  There is my trusty homemade fence-puller (the F.T. 2000) leaning up against the tailgate.  Yes, it does resemble some 2 x 4's and some bolts.  I also figured out an easier way to move around those heavy rolls of fencing using the tractor and some bungees.

The grass is almost up to the kids' heads!  We could use this as a hay field if we had the equipment, but for now we'll put the animals to work on it.  I'd love to bring down 50 turkeys, but I would worry that predators would get to them at night.

 
 

The Race Is On

It's been raining on and off for almost three weeks now here in Southern New England.  The forcast calls for rain and thunder storms for the next 7 days.  This is good for some of our garden but detrimental to tomatoes, peppers, and people who don't like mud.  In fact, the hay fields all around us in towns throughout Eastern Connecticut have been left to their own devices--almost looking abandoned--due to the constant wet.  No one has been able to cut their hay for weeks.  The first cutting traditionally takes place on Memorial Day Weekend here in CT, but it was raining back then, too!  Hopefully the rain will let up for a few days at least soon!

The rain does not seem to bother the large livestock, however.  Here you can see the two Jerseys and Aloysius involved in some sort of race with one of our Black Spanish turkeys.  The turkey seems to be winning this one.

The rain has also slowed down my building of our meat chicken coop/shed.  Here is a photo from a couple of weeks ago.  Liev helped me erect a wall.  Now, during breaks in the rain, and with a little help from my Dad yesterday, we have all four walls up, framed, and covered with siding.  I hope to put up some rafters today if it stays only overcast and does not begin to rain.

Despite all the rain, mud, humidity, and dirty floors that come with living in what seems to have turned into a tropical rainforest environment, good things do come in the end:

 
 

Calf on the Run

Here are some updated photos of our new calf, Aloysius, running in the field.  These were from about two weeks ago.  By now, the grass is really starting to take off in the field.  We over-seeded the pasture with a nice mix of grasses just before we had about a week of rain, so hopefully we will be able to improve on the quality of our grass. 

The lower portion of the field was all overgrown with golden rod and brambles, which were of little interest to the cattle and sheep.  I ended up cutting it all down with a field mower last fall.  I was sort of shocked at how bare it looked afterwards, and nervous that I ruined the field, but it looks like the grasses below the golden rod are now able to have a fighting chance. 

With a few years of work, we should be able to have this old pasture brought back...

It never ceases to amaze me that all of our animals instinctively know when to throw on the brakes when approaching a fence.  They will come at you at top speed and stop just before pummeling you or the fence.

Though he is still only about a month and a half old, he is starting--emphasis on starting--to learn to follow me around and to respond to our voices.  He knows his name when called and perks up when he hears it.  Always a good thing just in case they happen to "escape."

Above Aloysius (or Monster Truck, as my son Liev just reminded me over my shoulder as I type) romps about.

There he goes, trotting back to his stall after a hard afternoon's play.  We feed our cattle only grass/hay, but we do have them trained to grain as a treat.  When returning from the field, they (the big ones, too) have to cross through an unfenced area to gain access to the barn.  All I have to do is hollar for them to come and they come running.  They receive a small handful of sweet grain as a reward. 

 
 

Load of Hay and the Old Fashioned Way

We usually buy our hay from a neighboring farm here in town.  I am not sure if it is common knowledge or not, but hay, like most any other commodity in the world, comes in a variety of qualities.  There is good hay.  There is bad hay.  And all sorts in between.  We've been lucky to get our hay from our neighbors at Twin Hill Farm as they "make" exceptionally high quality hay.  Not being a hay farmer myself, I don't really know what goes into "making" good hay, but I suspect that much of it has to do with timing:  when to cut, when to fluff, when to bale.  Of course, the rain never helps matters.

Anyhow, we bought the last few bales from our supplier back at the end of the winter, and we've been trying hard to locate a secondary source to hold us over until the first cutting at the end of May.  We tried a couple of places and ended up with "bad" hay.  Yuck. 

Sometimes, it takes going without to realize how lucky one is to have it in the first place.  I can assure you that we will be buying more hay from our neighbors at cutting time and trying to store it up so as to avoid scratching around in the late winter of next year.

I am happy to report, though, that finally we found some decent hay.  Our friends at Terrabyte Farm in neighboring Canterbury, CT put us in contact with some hay farmers a couple of towns over.  They were some nice folks at that hay farm.  It turns out that they bale somewhere about 12,000 bales per season on an old farm that they are allowed to use virtually free of charge.  Barns and all!  They worked out a deal where they pay the taxes for the elderly woman who owns the farmland, keep her cable TV piping in, and keep her warm.  In exchange they have access to her 100's of acres and huge barns.  What a deal!  It sure is nice to see situations like this in what seems to be an increasingly complex world.  Some things are still pretty darn simple.

Truckload of hay and one dancing boy!

Add one dancing girl.

End result:  one itchy cat!  There is something affirming about the itch on your arms after loading bales of hay on a warm Spring day.

 
 

Silo Acquisition: Phase 2

We have just completed Phase 2 of our SILO ACQUISITION.

Phase 1, the most tedious of all phases, included posting several ads on Craigslist throughout the greater New England and Pennsylvania area in the hopes of locating an unwated silo (a.k.a. Grain Bin).  After culling through dozens of responses offering us "less-than-ideal" (read rusted, warped, three-legged, bottom-less!) silos, we decided to call around to find out about new silos. 

New silos, however, are not very cost-effective--especially from the perspective of those who always purchase things second, third, and fourth-hand.

We did, though, find a slightly used silo through one of owners of what I guess should be called the "Silo Store."  He informed us that one of his clients was interested in selling her silo, and that he would be willing to remove it from her farm and erect it on our property.  Around the same time, I stumbled upon another used silo at a farm in a neighboring town.  This one was slightly more "used," but worth while checking out.

Phase 2, then, involved looking at and inspecting both silos.  We decided, ultimately, on the newer of the two in the hopes that it will be a longer-lasting investment.  Below, find some photos taken at the conclusion of Phase 2.

(BBQ grill not included)

 

Phase 3, which involves the delivery and installation of said silo, will hopefully commence (and resume) sometime this week or next.  Phase 4, involving filling it will feed from the mill will, logically, follow Phase 3 forthwith.

 

 
 

Moo

I came home yesterday to find a bale of wood shavings ripped open and spilled across the barn floor.  Hmm, I thought, I wonder how that happened? 

Then I saw some ripped paper in the stall with the cattle...Apparantly, they enjoy brown paper almost as much as they enjoy grass and hay.

I'll have to make a point of not stacking the bales of shavings so close to them in the future.

Moo!

 
 
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